Scotlands largest rural performing arts festival takes centre stage

Dumfries & Galloway Arts Festival takes centre stage as Scotland’s largest rural performing arts festival celebrates its 40th Anniversary, opening a programme of 50 events across 34 regional venues from this Friday 24th May until Sunday 2nd June.

The 40th Anniversary programme of Dumfries & Galloway Arts Festival will be launched by Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary of Culture, Tourism and External Affairs who will attend the Opening Night Civic Reception and public performance of Morna Young’s Lost at Sea this Friday night (24th May) at Easterbrook Hall, Dumfries.

The arts festival will once again deliver high quality live performances which include award-winning comedy, theatre, dance, music and spoken word, in every postcode, bar one, across Scotland’s third largest region.

Across ten-days, residents and visitors to South West Scotland will be treated to award-winning performances throughout the region’s village and town halls, theatres, arts centres pubs and other community spaces. New venues for the events programme this year include Moat Brae; The Birthplace of Peter Pan, The Bridge in Dumfries and Lochans Community Hall in the Rhins of Galloway.

The arts festival opens at Easterbrook Hall in Dumfries on Friday 24th May, with a big-stage production of an evocative, acclaimed new piece of theatre Lost at Sea, which has received phenomenal reviews and four award nominations during its world premiere tour.

The play is a personal tribute to Scottish fishing communities and written by Morna Young who admits much of her previous work has been inspired by the region’s landscape and “stunning” coastline. The writer is passionate about the region and reports feeling very at home in Dumfries & Galloway as it is an agricultural area similar to her Moray home.

The 40th Anniversary programme of Dumfries & Galloway Arts Festival centres on everyday challenges and triumphs with the themes of love, loss and a sense of place woven throughout it.

This year’s programme has been curated by new Director, Dani Rae, who has worked across the creative industries for the last 15 years. An experienced cultural producer she joined from Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society in 2018, returning ‘home’ to deliver this special year’s programme. Her aim is to increase regional audiences and appeal to visitors coming from further afield, developing the well-respected charity whose aim is to encourage accessibility to high quality performing arts events in the rural economy.

The Director’s picks include side-splitting stand-up with TV favourite comedian Lucy Porter – who has just one Scottish date, at Lockerbie Town Hall with her new show ‘Pass it On (Wednesday 29th May) and blood pumping, Edinburgh Fringe sell-out, Electrolyte, a multi-award winning piece of gig-theatre by Wildcard, coming to the Corner House, Annan (Thursday 30th May), Castle Douglas Town Hall (Friday 31st May) and Fitba Bar, Stranraer (Saturday 1st June).

A High Street Take Over – Picnic at the Plainstanes (Saturday 25 May) in Dumfries, has been programmed by the festival’s Young Promoters Group offering free live performances all afternoon, including professional acrobats and a spotlight on local, talented musicians.


Newton Stewart and Moffat welcome the good doctor of folk Martin Carthy and his twice Mercury Prize-nominated daughter, Eliza Carthy (Saturday 25 and Monday 27 May) who collaborate in their uniquely charismatic and visceral style.


The remarkable, hilarious and heart-lifting true story of Team Viking, a comic ode of a promised ‘full Viking burial’ presented by Tangram Theatre (Monday 27, Tuesday 28 and Wednesday 29 May) offer a brilliant combination of storytelling, live music and comedy and will be staged right across the region in three locations; Gatehouse of Fleet, Moffat and Lochans.


Dance lovers are in for a treat with a new production from Joan Cleville Dance, The North, supported by the Rural Touring Dance Initiative. The show delivers elements of cinematic visual and sound design with original music from Mogwai regular Luke Sutherland and an eclectic soundtrack from Wagner to Frank Sinatra, performed in new venue The Bridge, Dumfries (Wednesday 29 May).

Scottish Opera are parking up their fantastic pop-up opera truck, re-creating the fully accessible Glasgow Theatre Royal, to delight family and friends with three short shows; A Little Bit of Magic Flute, A Little Bit of Lolanthe and Puffy McPuffer & the Crabbit Canals, for an organised schools performance in Gretna (Thursday 30 May) and for public performances in Logan Botanic Garden (Friday 31 May) and Crawick Multiverse near Sanquhar (Saturday 1 June).

A west-end sell-out ‘footie’ comedy, The Red Lion, presented by Rapture Theatre and starring Emmerdale and Brookside actor John McArdle. An all-star cast will entertain audiences with a battle of wills and lots of laughs, written by Patrick Marber and performed in both Stranraer Ryan Centre (Friday 31 May) and the Theatre Royal, Dumfries (Saturday 1 June).

Scottish Ensemble perform two concerts within the 40th Anniversary programme including Dance Music with guest director Malin Broman, Leader of the Swedish Radio Orchestra and an award-winning violinist, with the performance celebrating music designed to make us move (Thursday 30th May) in Theatre Royal, Dumfries.

Closing the Anniversary programme will be ‘Home and Horizon’ (Sunday 2 June). Curated by Alison Burns a suite of music, song and spoken word, inspired by Dumfries & Galloway, will be performed by a selection of Scotland’s top musicians in collaboration with Scottish Ensemble, featuring the region’s exceptional ‘home-grown’ talent’ such as Emily Smith, Robyn Stapleton, Wendy Stewart, Aaron Jones, Clare Mann, Jamie McClennan and award-winning writer Tom Pow.

Dani Rae, Director of Dumfries & Galloway Arts Festival, said: “It’s a real privilege to return home and present the 40th Anniversary of Dumfries & Galloway Arts Festival, bringing the best in live performing arts to one of the most glorious parts of the world, a festival which has been part of the creative life blood of the region since 1979.”
“We’re delighted Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs will launch this commemorative year and attend Festival Opener, Lost at Sea, a show which is indicative of the quality of live performances we bring to venues right across Dumfries & Galloway.
“I look forward to continuing to develop the essence and original focus of those who pioneered the very first arts festival in 1979 – to enable local communities to be able to see the highest quality shows without having to travel to the cities”.

Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop said:


Dumfries and Galloway Arts Festival takes high quality performances to some of the most remote areas of the country, and is a fantastic example of making arts accessible to all and empowering communities to have a say in what they want to see.
“I am particularly impressed by the Young Promoters Group, which provides real skills development and employment opportunities to the region’s young people who want to work in the performing arts sector.
“I look forward to seeing what this exciting showcase festival has to offer in its 40th year, and in the future.”

Lorna Duguid, Multi-artform Manager, Creative Scotland, commented:

“Dumfries & Galloway Arts Festival is a key organisation in the delivery of performing arts and culture in Dumfries and Galloway.  It has, and continues to be, an important keystone for access to high quality programming for the area and this year’s 40th anniversary programme is no exception, reaching new audiences and venues across the region, with work from some of Scotland’s most exciting artists.”


To see the full programme for the 40th Anniversary of Dumfries & Galloway Arts Festival, visit www.dgartsfestival.org.uk

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